Thursday, December 18, 2014

Staying Safe on the Road: Interview with Judy Utter of MADD

Earlier this month, we sat down with Judy Utter, Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) Victim Services Specialist, to talk about their victim services program and how to plan ahead for holiday celebrations.

What is MADD’s mission?

MADD’s mission is to stop drunk driving, support the victims of this violent crime, and to prevent under aged drinking.

What services does MADD provide for victims of drunk driving?

Our victims’ services vary depending on what our victims need. First of all we provide information on community resources that can assist the victims’ specific needs or emergency funding, and we attend court with victims if they want to be involved in the judicial process. We also have lots of grief materials that help victims cope with the grief and the emotions that surround a DUI. We have support groups in many of our offices including Sacramento, and I have facilitated one here for about 20 years. We are just generally available to listen to the victims and help them move forward from the crash.

What preventative programs are offered for under aged drivers?

We have three main focuses for educating under aged drivers. First we have our “Power of Parents” program that helps parents con verse with their teen about the issue of drinking. We also have a “Power of Teens” program which helps teen understand the reasons why 21 is the legal drinking age. Lastly we have our “Start Making a Right Turn” program which help teens who are in a crisis or who are on the edge by interacting with the teen and parents together to help get them back to the right path.

What is something that most people don’t know about drunk driving?

Monday, November 3, 2014

Ending Domestic Violence Year-Round

By Shaina Brown, Public Affairs and Communications Associate, California Coalition Against Sexual Assault

As we close out Domestic Violence Awareness Month, I am moved to remember that our work never stops. Domestic Violence Awareness Month, like Sexual Assault Awareness Month, does not have a shelf life of 30 days. The work of advocates, the experiences of survivors, and the dedication of state agencies is not limited to one month a year. Rather, we are dedicated to ending violence 365 days a year.

The California Coalition Against Sexual Assault works with partners like the California Partnership to End Domestic Violence to advance the issues of sexual assault and domestic violence in unison. Together, we are stronger and are more poised for success as we develop funding, advocate for legislation, and create programs to support survivors.

Shaina Brown speaks at the Suited for Successful Families donation turnover event
CALCASA was honored to be recognized with CalVCP’s “Excellence in Victims’ Rights Award” during the Suited for Successful Families event at the Capitol on Wednesday. The event partners raised over 7,000 pieces of clothing that has been donated to local domestic violence agencies to empower families! We applaud CalVCP for their dedication and we hope that we will take the success and inspiration of Domestic Violence Awareness Month and harness it for positive change every day!

Shaina Brown is responsible for managing strategic communications and providing analysis on legislative issues related to sexual violence for the California Coalition Against Sexual Assault. Shaina has a background in public affairs, media relations and grants management. Shaina joined the movement to end sexual violence in 2009, serving as a volunteer for Jeans 4 Justice, a San Diego based social change organization.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Melissa Melendez: State Needs Tougher Domestic Violence Laws

By Melissa Melendez, California State Assemblymember (R—Lake Elsinore)

Over the last month, America’s favorite sport has provided a spotlight on one of America’s oldest cultural blemishes – domestic violence.

The catalysts and reasons for domestic violence are numerous. For some, it is a part of a broader struggle with substance abuse, while for others it is just the way that they were raised.

The very sad fact remains that people are abused because their abuser knows that not only are they likely to get away with it, but that the consequences – both legal and societal – are not large concerns.

Let me speak plainly. That last fact is our fault.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Commemorating Domestic Violence Awareness Month

By Julie Nauman, VCGCB Executive Officer

There’s a reason you cannot get away from the story of Ray Rice, NFL running back who assaulted his then-fiancé and now-wife. Why has the video been played and replayed, and the incident rehashed over and over, across social media, print media, and television outlets? Yes, Rice is a multimillionaire and celebrity sports figure. But there is a bigger picture explanation: the issue resonates with people.

Domestic violence (DV) affects 1 in 4 women and 1 in 7 men. DV victims make up over one-fourth of CalVCP applications annually. It’s a pervasive problem that takes victims of any age, economic status, race, religion, nationality or educational background, and it needs to be more effectively addressed.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Reaching Victims in the Social Sphere

What do the 1.3 billion active Facebook users have in common? Or the 645 million Twitter, 300 million LinkedIn, and 200 million Instagram users? They make themselves reachable. Marketers have known this for years, and have taken advantage by aggressively targeting consumers through their social media networks. There is no doubt that social media provides great potential to reach specific audiences, and the California Victim Compensation Program (CalVCP) is demonstrating how government agencies can tap into this digital dialogue to better serve their citizens.

CalVCP processes over 50,000 applications for services to victims and survivors of crime each year, an average of almost 1,000 each week. Still, nearly half of violent crimes are never reported — that’s almost 50% of victims who are not represented in published statistics. How can we reach these hidden populations? Enter social media. While CalVCP continues to conduct traditional outreach through advertising, PSA's, event participation and the like, we recognize the importance of joining the online discussion to better assist victims of crime.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Stand With Your Neighborhood on National Night Out

Tonight, on the 31st anniversary of National Night Out (NNO), communities and neighborhoods across the nation will stand together to promote crime prevention awareness, safety, and neighborhood unity. August 5th is “America’s Night Out Against Crime,” an annual observance highlighting the importance of police-community partnerships and citizen involvement in our fight for a safer nation.

The National Night Out campaign is designed to:
  • Heighten crime and drug prevention awareness;
  • Generate support for, and participation in, local anti-crime programs;
  • Strengthen neighborhood spirit and police-community partnerships; and
  • Send a message to criminals letting them know that neighborhoods are organized and fighting back.
National Night Out 2013 brought together over 37.8 million people in 16,242 communities from all 50 states, U.S. territories, Canadian cities, and military bases worldwide. NNO activities include front porch vigils, block parties, cookouts, parades, festivals, visits from local officials and law enforcement, safety fairs, and youth events. National Night Out 2014 is expected to be the largest yet.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Elder and Dependent Adult Abuse in California

By Heidi Richardson, Program Specialist, Sacramento County Adult Protective Services

A young woman and her 89 year-old great-grandmother, who barely weighed 90 lbs., entered the bank to withdraw cash from the older woman’s account. As they left, the teller watched the young woman treating the older woman harshly while impatiently pushing her into the car. The teller reviewed the account and found suspicious transactions. She reported her concerns to APS. When APS visited the home, they found a malnourished and isolated woman with serious untreated medical conditions and almost no food in the home. She required hospitalization.

The National Elder Mistreatment Study found that one in ten adults over age 65 reported experiencing at least one form of mistreatment — emotional, physical, sexual or potential neglect — in the past year.
The case described above is an example of a report investigated by Adult Protective Services (APS). In fiscal year 2012/13, APS programs in California received 125,653 reports of financial abuse, physical abuse, neglect, isolation, abandonment, abduction, and psychological abuse of elders and dependent adults. County APS agencies investigate these reports and arrange for services such as advocacy, counseling, money management, out-of-home placement, or conservatorship. APS can connect victims with medical providers, community services, and trusted family members in hopes of helping the older or dependent adult regain their health and independence.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Beyond the Physical Damage of Violent Crime

By Julie Nauman, VCGCB Executive Officer

It has been said that pain and suffering are natural elements of the universal human condition. Most of us will experience some degree of trauma in our lifetime, but our responses to that trauma will vary significantly based on a variety of factors including genetics, disposition, temperament, and early home life. Mental health professionals cannot pinpoint a single, universal reason that some victims display more resilience to the crippling effects of trauma; however, they do know that there is a strong link between violent crime and ensuing psychological distress. For this reason, mental health services can be a critical resource for victims.

On the heels of recent tragedies like the Isla Vista shooting and the Reynolds High attack in Troutdale, OR, it is certainly important to consider the factors that may cause criminal conduct and to address the role of our mental health system in violence prevention; yet, it is equally important to address the well-being of victims and to recognize the host of mental health challenges they face as a result of violent crime.

Over one-third of California Victim Compensation Program (CalVCP) payouts are mental health-related. Last year, the program provided over $21 million to crime victims for mental health expenses alone, proof that physical injury is far from the only major impact of violent crime.

CalVCP Staff Psychologist Dr. James Kent explains that violent crime leaves behind not just tangible scars, but also serves as a mental reminder that the world isn’t as orderly and safe as we’d like to believe. As victims attempt to cope with the aftermath of a violent crime, they may experience debilitating psychological and emotional effects that persist long after physical wounds have healed. According to Dr. Kent, symptom responses can include anxiety, depression, diminished self-esteem, self-fault, increased dependence, feelings of incompetence. Victimization can also result in shock, numbness, denial, hyper-vigilance, anger or irritability, detachment or estrangement of others, memory loss or forgetfulness, sleeping disorders, and recurring flashbacks or intrusive thoughts. Child victims have been known to suffer long-term mental health effects leading to poor academic performance, aggression, antisocial behavior, and substance abuse.

CalVCP is dedicated to assisting victims with expenses related to inpatient and outpatient mental health treatment that is necessary as a direct result of a qualifying violent crime. In addition, minors who suffer emotional injuries from witnessing a violent crime may be eligible for up to $5,000 in mental health counseling. This filing status can be especially valuable in instances such as school shootings, when a minor witness is not related to the victim but was in close proximity to the crime. By providing financial assistance and resources, CalVCP strives to promote healing and allow victims the opportunity to restore their lives to their fullest potential.

To learn more about the mental health benefits available through CalVCP, watch our Victim Services Talk Series (Ep. 4, "Mental Health Services for Victims") or visit our Victim Issues webpage.

Julie Nauman is the Executive Officer for the Victim Compensation and Government Claims Board (VCGCB). VCGCB provides compensation for victims of violent crime and helps to resolve claims against the State.

Friday, June 27, 2014

9 Ways You Could Be Inviting Cybercrime

By Julie Nauman, VCGCB Executive Officer

We teach our children to use the buddy system. We remind them to look both ways before crossing the street. We instruct them not to accept gifts from strangers. But one of the most dangerous threats of all lies in the place many of us consider to be the safest: our own home.

Despite all of the precautions we take to protect our families and safeguard our residences, none of us are immune to the risks of the internet. Our computers, smartphones, and tablets allow us to access boundless information and communicate with people all over the world; unfortunately, these virtual connections also expose our vulnerabilities and leave us open to online predators.

In honor of National Internet Safety Month this June, here are a few common ways that you may be inviting cybercriminals into your home, and what you can do to safeguard yourself and your family from identity theft, fraud, harassment, cyberstalking, and more.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Mending the Sacred Hoop: Native American Victims’ Services

Native Americans are 2.5 times more likely to experience sexual assault than any other race, and one in three American Indian women reports having been raped during her lifetime.1 Although they suffer some of the highest abuse rates of any group in the United States, Native Americans remain significantly underrepresented in the victim services community. Cultural and linguistic obstacles, as well as a lack of physical access to services, keep many from reporting crimes, while a deep-seated mistrust of the justice system and unclear legal jurisdiction2 prevent others from coming forward.

In an effort to reshape this status quo, passionate advocates like Mary Thompson, Domestic Violence Advocate and Cultural Coordinator at the Sacramento Native American Health Center (SNAHC), are working hard to reach out to underserved Native American communities in Northern California. The Sacramento Native American Health Center is a comprehensive clinic that provides wraparound services to improve the health and well-being of Native American Indians. As the only Native American clinic in the greater Sacramento region with a cultural component, the SNAHC works with women, men, and families to promote a holistic approach to victim healing and recovery.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Innovation in Victims’ Services: Courthouse Dogs

In many ways, Aloha is just like any other playful pup. She loves to roll in the grass, chase her handler’s young daughters, and chew on her favorite red toy. But Aloha is not your average dog. She is a courthouse dog; an extraordinary canine who provides paws-itive support to victims of violent crime. The one and a half-year-old Australian multigenerational labradoodle, with her captivating green eyes and a bright pink nose, is one of two companion dogs that serve the Yolo County District Attorney’s office.
From right: Yolo County District Attorney Jeff Reisig, Government Operations Agency Secretary Marybel Batjer, and County Victim Services Program Manager Laura Valdes, with Aloha

District Attorney Jeff Reisig introduced the working dog program to Yolo County in 2008. The concept developed out of the notion that dogs — as man’s best friends — might provide a comforting and reassuring presence to crime survivors during victim/witness interviews and courtroom interrogations.

Aloha was bred and trained at Gabby Jack Ranch, a nonprofit organization out of Penn Valley, California that provides service, therapy and comfort dogs for people with physical and/or emotional challenges. She began her service training when she was just ten weeks old with Training Coordinator Terry Sandhoff, and is now part of an elite team formally known as High Performance Therapy (HPT) Dogs focused specifically on aiding the victim services community. In order to most effectively support survivors, who often suffer enduring psychological disabilities such as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), Aloha has undergone extensive, specialized training focused on the needs of victim services.
“Therapy dogs help people victimized by others to open up, tell someone and turn their traumatic events into personal triumph.”
—Gabby Jack Ranch founder and CEO Jacque Reynolds

Canine companions like Aloha are trained to assist crime victims and witnesses as they prepare for court and while testifying in trials, as well as to build courage and confidence in their ability to open up about the crimes they have been too afraid or too ashamed to face. In addition, the temperament, intelligence and friendly dispositions of HPT dogs make them very successful in comforting both adults and children alike. For kids, pups like Aloha serve as “a friend to whom they can share all of the horrors, tell all of their fears and receive non-judgmental and unconditional acceptance,” shares Gabby Jack Ranch founder and CEO Jacque Reynolds.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

The Lost Children of Cambodia: Part 2

Last week, Kristin opened our eyes to the crisis of child exploitation in Cambodia. In part two of our blog series, she exposes some of the horrendous crimes against children that are occurring in Phnom Penh every day, while also revealing inspiring stories of hope and transformation emerging out of one of the darkest corners of the world.

As you mentioned last week, you volunteered at the Agape’s Rahab’s House, which helps and heals child victims of sex trafficking. Walk us through a typical day there.

The center serves 100+ kids at any given time. From 8 a.m. to 10 a.m., we worked with kids who have graduated from the program. From 11 a.m. to noon, we would visit brick factory workers or impoverished families. We would bring them enough rice for a month, soap, mosquito nets, and blankets. At noon, we would eat lunch with the graduates and children at the center. Then from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m., we hosted a kids camp for the children of Phnom Penh and brick factory children. During kids camp, we would host activities, games, and crafts. This part of the day was always my favorite. It was the moment that you could see children—those you knew would be trafficked that very night—laugh and start to understand that there are people out there who do not want to hurt them. Sometimes a mere high five from one of the campers could make your day.

Kristin (third from left) with AIM staff at the Rahab's House facility in Siem Reap
Through this center, AIM communicates that if anything ever harms them, there is a safe, good place they can come to. AIM’s outreach efforts are about building relationships, community, and overall helping and healing victims.

What will you remember most about your time at the center?

The most rewarding part of my trip was meeting the warriors on the front line, the survivors of trade, and knowing that by just being there, I was helping. It was the interactions that I will remember.

Monday, April 7, 2014

SAVE Celebrates National Youth Violence Prevention Week and 25 Years of SAVEing Youth

By Carleen Wray, Executive Director of SAVE

Students Against Violence Everywhere, better known as SAVE, started at West Charlotte High School in Charlotte, N.C. in 1989 following the tragic death of a student who was trying to break up a fight at an off-campus party. Students met first to console each other, then formed an organization to promote youth safety working together to prevent future incidents from occurring.

From that one high school chapter, SAVE has grown into a nationwide nonprofit — the National Association of Students Against Violence Everywhere, dedicated to decreasing the potential for violence in our schools and communities across the country. Today, more than 200,000 students are directly involved in SAVE programs at their middle school, high school and college chapters.

This week SAVE chapters across the country will participate in National Youth Violence Prevention Week April 7 to 11. SAVE has partnered with five likeminded organizations to sponsor the week. Each day during the week corresponds to a specific challenge presented by one of the sponsors and executed by youth around the country. Information about each sponsor and an example of suggested daily activities follows:

Friday, April 4, 2014

The Lost Children of Cambodia: Part 1

It’s no secret that human trafficking is a worldwide epidemic. Increasing public awareness, political activism, and media engagement have allowed us to better identify and assist victims, but human trafficking remains a complex problem without a simple solution. This is especially true in Phnom Penh, where the sexual exploitation of children is unparalleled. In the bustling capital city of Cambodia, kids as young as four and five years old are regularly sold for sex with grown men. Why are parents trading their daughters into slavery, and why is the government allowing this appalling abuse to happen?

To shed light on the growing problem of child sex trafficking in Cambodia, the CNN Freedom Project recently released “Every Day in Cambodia,” a documentary featuring Academy Award-winning actress and UNODC Goodwill Ambassador for Global Fight against Human Trafficking Mira Sorvino, that profiles two organizations actively working to prevent sex trafficking: Agape International Missions (AIM) and 3Strands.

Founded by activists Don and Bridget Brewster, AIM is a California-based nonprofit focused on ending the evil of child sexual slavery in Cambodia. The mission of AIM is to prevent, rescue, restore, and reintegrate.

Kristin Damask, a local community member and humanitarian, recently participated in AIM’s global outreach program, where she was able to experience firsthand the crisis in Cambodia. For two weeks, Kristin volunteered at AIM Restoration Home for formerly trafficked children, and upon returning, she shared with us both the horrific acts and the emerging hope she witnessed in Phnom Penh.

My Story Could Be Yours: Sexual Assault Awareness PSA the California Victim Compensation Program commemorates the entire month of April to Crime Victims’ Rights, it is as important to bring attention to and raise awareness for Sexual Assault Awareness Month.  CalVCP is committed to reaching out to educate the public about sexual assault and resources available to victims and survivors for assistance and healing.

Please watch and share our new video public service announcement, My Story Could Be Yours, and help us spread the word about sexual assault.

California Victim Compensation Program Logo
The California Victim Compensation Program (CalVCP) provides compensation for victims of violent crime. CalVCP provides eligible victims with reimbursement for many crime-related expenses. CalVCP funding comes from restitution paid by criminal offenders through fines, orders, penalty assessments and federal matching funds.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Crime Victims' Rights Month: The Attention Belongs to Victims

According to the California Attorney General’s Office, over 440 violent crimes are reported in California each day. During April, CalVCP observes California Crime Victims’ Rights Month (CVRM) to honor, recognize, support, and advocate for survivors of violence.

In a time when much attention is placed on the criminal offenders, and even offender rights, it is imperative that we bring focus back to the victims who need it. This year’s CVRM theme, “Victims’ Rights, Victims’ First,” underscores the need to make victims’ rights a top priority.

Violent crime does not discriminate; it can affect anybody, in any community. During CVRM, our hope is not only to raise awareness, but to inspire action. We encourage everyone to take the time to learn about your rights and the services available to you and your loved ones.

CalVCP will honor victims and thank those who assist them throughout a number of activities during Crime Victims’ Rights Month. We encourage you to join and participate:

  • County Observances — CalVCP will join county officials across the state to honor both victims and the advocates who help guide survivors through the justice process and direct them to critical resources.
  • Podcasts — CalVCP will release a series of short interviews with courageous survivors who will share their experiences and describe their healing process.
  • Victims’ Rights Digital Town Hall — CalVCP will host an online town hall discussion addressing a variety of topics, including how to reach the underserved through collaborative efforts.
  • CVRM April 2014 Public Service Announcement — This video features California Attorney General Kamala D. Harris speaking to survivors, advocates, and community leaders on the important work being done to prevent crime, provide services to victims, and honor the lives of those lost to violent crimes.
  • Blogs — CalVCP will post a number of guest blogs examining issues, personal stories, and helpful tools and services, written by respected leaders in the victims’ rights community.
  • Denim Day — On Wednesday, April 23rd, CalVCP and millions across the nation will wear denim as a symbol of protest against erroneous and destructive attitudes about sexual assault.

For more information, visit CalVCP's California Crime Victims’ Rights Month website.

California Victim Compensation Program Logo
The California Victim Compensation Program (CalVCP) provides compensation for victims of violent crime. CalVCP provides eligible victims with reimbursement for many crime-related expenses. CalVCP funding comes from restitution paid by criminal offenders through fines, orders, penalty assessments and federal matching funds.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Cycle of Crisis: Already Facing an Uphill Battle, Foster Care Children Targeted by Traffickers Too

By Rosario Dowling, Program Director & Jay Rivera, Communications Manager, CAS (Californians Against Slavery) Research & Education

Every day in California, 70 children enter the foster care system for the first, second or third time depending on each specific case. Most children enter the system as victims of physical/sexual abuse, neglect, the lack of essential needs, or abandonment. These are also well-known indicators of vulnerability for a potential sex trafficking victim.

Where are our foster care children being housed? In out-of-home placements, group homes, juvenile hall, and homeless on our streets. In Sacramento alone, two of the children’s receiving homes are situated along “tracks” of pimping and pandering. It is no wonder that 75% of the girls that I have come in contact with in juvenile hall are from foster care and in a cycle of endless visits to our states’ juvenile court system.

A recent House Appropriations Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies (CJS) hearing on Feb. 26, titled, “The State of Efforts to Stop Human Trafficking” had a detective testify that 67% of sex trafficked victims were in foster care or in the care of social services. The State of Human Trafficking Report released in 2012 found that 72% of the sex trafficked victims reported were born in the US.

Ending this cycle of crisis isn’t an easy fix but a long term solution that requires the efforts of everyone in the community—not just adoptive parents, emergency placement homes, and respite care homes. Teachers, mentors, role models, friends: become the stability and support that our children need and crave. Intervene on their behalf before the traumatized child becomes the 14% statistic that exits the system of “care” and enters the prison system, as stated in a 2011 Senate Office of Research CA report. We know who and where targeted victims of sex trafficking are. The resources are already in place to combat human trafficking. We cannot blame social services for the ills of our children, if we ourselves are not lining up to care for them.

Rosario Dowling has been a chronic volunteer from an early age, starting as a bilingual tutor in 3rd grade. She believes that championing the “underdog,” especially those in their adolescent years, is vital to the fabric of our community. Besides having the perfect job, she still finds time to volunteer at the Sacramento County Juvenile Hall through Bridge-Network’s Motivated For Change program; mentoring, retraining, and redirecting of current mindsets for better outcomes with male wards in the Placement (group home) Unit. Rosario was an instrumental member of PROPOSITON 35 Team, leading its grassroots effort in Northern California.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

When SMS Becomes an SOS: Using Texting as a Serious Resource

It should come as no surprise that text messaging is the most common form of communication among American youth today. According to the Pew Internet & American Life Project, 63 percent of teenagers exchange text messages daily, a rate that surpasses phone calls, emails, social network site messaging, instant messaging, and even face-to-face socializing (outside of school).

As cell phones become an extension of the modern teen, we have seen a spike in the number of text hotlines established as an alternative method of providing crisis help. The reason for this is simple: the convenience and accessibility of texting makes it an attractive option for reaching out to younger victim demographics.

Firstly, the texting platform has a unique ability to break down the psychological and physical barriers that prevent people from getting assistance. While making an actual phone call can be daunting (and even dangerous) for a victim, texting provides privacy and anonymity to those who might not otherwise seek help from formal safety resources. Simply put, it is easier to type one’s feelings than to vocalize them to a stranger. This rings especially true when dealing with sensitive subject matter such as sexual assault or abuse, depression, and suicide. Making a phone call might not always be feasible, but a text can be covertly sent by a person who is in physical danger or in the immediate vicinity of family, friends, or teachers who may be able to listen in on a spoken conversation. In addition, texting can eliminate fears over social stigmas associated with many of these issues.

Texting as a crisis help method can also be beneficial for advocates and service providers, allowing them to better communicate and empathize with teen and young adult audiences. Crisis experts contend that people who text crisis lines are in need of the same services as those calling hotlines: risk assessment, emotional validation, and collaborative problem solving. Text messaging allows crisis counselors to provide these services to young adults as efficiently and effectively as possible.

For example, the ability to save text history means that any time a person contacts a hotline following his/her initial dialogue exchange, a counselor can pull up archives and pick up the conversation right where it left off. This personalized interaction strengthens feelings of trust, support, and understanding. At the same time, counselors are able to assist multiple people simultaneously, as well as consult best approaches with fellow colleagues.

How will this impact the future of victims’ services? Nancy Lublin, founder of Crisis Text Line, stresses that texts provide real-time information that can reveal patterns—time, date, and geographical frequencies—for people in crisis. With this knowledge, counselors can better match people with the emergency services and local resources they need. At the legislative level, the aggregate data might even be used to influence public policy related to victims’ rights and victims’ services.

The National Dating Abuse Helpline estimates that its text line, launched in 2011, currently accounts for about 20 percent of operations. As that number continues to grow, integration of mobile technologies will be key to supporting a victim-centric approach in our field. Crisis text lines such as Crisis Text Line, the National Dating Abuse Helpline, and Teen Line (based in Los Angeles and operated by teens) represent a fusion of technology and victims’ services that will allow advocates, providers, and first responders to continue expanding victim reach and better respond to people in crisis.

California Victim Compensation Program Logo
The California Victim Compensation Program (CalVCP) provides compensation for victims of violent crime. CalVCP provides eligible victims with reimbursement for many crime-related expenses. CalVCP funding comes from restitution paid by criminal offenders through fines, orders, penalty assessments and federal matching funds.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

National Teen Dating Violence Awareness and Prevention Month

By Julie Nauman, VCGCB Executive Officer

It can be hard to relate to statistics; after all, they are just numbers without a face, right? But what happens when that next statistic is your best friend? Your teammate? Your little sister? The closer it hits to home, the easier it is to see that even one victim is too many.
  • Every year, almost 1.5 million high school students nationwide experience physical abuse from a boyfriend or girlfriend.1
  • That’s one in ten high school students who has been purposefully hit, slapped or physically hurt by a partner.2
  • Females are disproportionately affected, with one in four high school girls a victim of physical abuse in their relationships.3
  • When including emotional and verbal injury, the rate of dating abuse jumps to one in three teenagers.4

The prevalence of teen dating violence is inexcusable, but the good news about bad statistics is that YOU can change them. Dating violence is not usually a one-time incident, but a pattern of destructive behaviors used to control another person. In that sense, putting an end to teen dating violence is a matter of spotting healthy versus unhealthy relationships, looking out for your peers, and building a culture of respect where abuse is unacceptable.

Only 33% of teens who were in an abusive relationship ever told anyone about the abuse, 5 and 81% of parents believe teen dating violence is not an issue or admit they don’t know if it’s an issue.6 It’s time to change these attitudes in our schools and communities. As a mother, the thought of any child being hurt by, or inflicting pain on another, is infuriating. We—parents, teachers, coaches, mentors—need to speak out against teen dating violence in order to stop the abuse before it begins. We have a shared responsibility to model healthy relationships founded in respect and equality; to teach our children that love and abuse cannot exist simultaneously and that violence doesn't equal strength. This February, make your voice heard during National Teen Dating Violence Awareness and Prevention Month.

If you or someone you know has a question about a relationship, visit or text “loveis” to 22522. For additional resources, visit

1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “Physical Dating Violence Among High School Students—United States, 2003,” Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, May 19, 2006, Vol. 55, No. 19.

2. Grunbaum JA, Kann L, Kinchen S, et al. 2004. Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance—United States, 2003. Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. 53(SS02); 1-96. Available at

3. Schoen, C. et al., The Commonwealth Fund Survey for the Health of Adolescent Girls, November 1997.

4. Davis, Antoinette, MPH. 2008. Interpersonal and Physical Dating Violence among Teens. The National Council on Crime and Delinquency Focus. Available at

5. Liz Claiborne Inc., conducted by Teenage Research Unlimited, (February 2005).

6. “Women’s Health,” June/July 2004, Family Violence Prevention Fund and Advocates for Youth,

Julie Nauman is the Executive Officer for the Victim Compensation and Government Claims Board (VCGCB). VCGCB provides compensation for victims of violent crime and helps to resolve claims against the State.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

The Scope of Human Trafficking In California

There are an estimated 20.9 million human trafficking victims worldwide at any given time. Astoundingly, this organized criminal enterprise ranks second only to the drug trafficking industry, generating revenues of approximately $32 billion a year.

And while most people associate the term with the smuggling of humans across international borders, the faces of human trafficking are more familiar than you might think. This modern slavery is happening not only on foreign soil but often in our very own zip codes. Would you believe that a staggering 72% of human trafficking victims identified by California’s regional human trafficking task forces are U.S. citizens?

Within the United States, California has become one of the primary transit and destination states for human trafficking victims, with the populous metropolitan regions of Los Angeles, San Francisco, and San Diego nabbing three of the 13 spots on the FBI’s report of the highest child sex trafficking areas in the nation. Unfortunately, the same factors that make California an ideal place to live and work—our large economy, commercial influence, and prime geographic location—have also provided a fertile breeding ground for the exploitation of humans.

In commemoration of Human Trafficking Awareness Month, CalVCP has released a video PSA highlighting the broad scope of human trafficking. The good news is that combatting this crime can be as simple as being aware of its existence and knowing how to respond to it. Join us this month in helping to give silenced victims a voice and shed light on the prevalence of this dark crime.

If you or someone you know is being forced to engage in any activity and cannot leave—whether it is commercial sex, housework, farm work, construction, factory, retail, or restaurant work, or any other activity—call the National Human Trafficking Resource Center at 1-888-373-7888 or the California Coalition to Abolish Slavery and Trafficking (CAST) at 1-888-KEY-2-FRE(EDOM) or 1-888-539-2373 to access help and services. Victims of slavery and human trafficking are protected under United States and California law.

The hotlines are:
  • Available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
  • Toll-free.
  • Operated by nonprofit, nongovernmental organizations.
  • Anonymous and confidential.
  • Accessible in more than 160 languages.
  • Able to provide help, referral to services, training, and general information.

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The California Victim Compensation Program (CalVCP) provides compensation for victims of violent crime. CalVCP provides eligible victims with reimbursement for many crime-related expenses. CalVCP funding comes from restitution paid by criminal offenders through fines, orders, penalty assessments and federal matching funds.

Monday, January 27, 2014

National Stalking Awareness Month

By Julie Nauman, VCGCB Executive Officer

This January, CalVCP joins the nation in observing the 10th anniversary of National Stalking Awareness Month. In standing with President Obama’s Proclamation, we dedicate this month to “pursuing justice for victims of stalking and ensuring survivors receive the support they need.”

According to California law, stalking is defined as willfully, maliciously, and repeatedly following or harassing another person. It’s not necessarily a single criminal act, but a series of actions directed at a person that causes the victim to fear for his or her safety.

Stalking can include:
  • Unwanted phone calls, texts, letters, emails, or gifts 
  • Following or spying
  • Tracking actions, location, or private information using technology
  • Spreading rumors
  • Waiting at places for victim; showing up at locations without a legitimate reason
  • Harassing victim’s friends or family
We must teach our youth that stalking is not a joke. It’s not romantic. Far too often, threats can escalate into physical assault or even homicide. It is time to dispel the many common myths that allow stalking behaviors to persist.

It’s worth noting that the word “stalking” has undergone a bizarre evolution in today’s popular culture, with modern technologies blurring the line between destructive crime and casual pastime. Trendy teenagers and young adults can often be heard joking about “Facebook stalking” their best friends or potential partners, a reference to the tracking of a person’s social media page for pictures, status updates, and other personal information. This seemingly innocuous term is in fact very dangerous, as it essentially decriminalizes stalking and minimizes the severity of a very illegal offense. Coincidentally, persons ages 18 to 24 experience the highest rate of stalking victimization. We must teach our youth that stalking is not a joke. It’s not romantic. Far too often, threats can escalate into physical assault or even homicide.It is time to dispel the many common myths that allow stalking behaviors to persist.

The following are examples of widely held misconceptions surrounding stalking:
Stalking is more than just an annoyance or unwanted attention. It’s an abusive behavior and a serious crime. By recognizing this fact and helping to change attitudes, we can better provide support and healing to victims as well as hold their stalkers accountable.

If you or someone you know is being victimized by a stalker, there are a variety of resources available to help:

Join me this January for National Stalking Awareness Month as we stand behind victims, survivors, law enforcement, first responders, advocates, and service providers in the collaborative effort to create a safer nation for all. 

Julie Nauman is the Executive Officer for the Victim Compensation and Government Claims Board (VCGCB). VCGCB provides compensation for victims of violent crime and helps to resolve claims against the State.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Changing Cultural Attitudes on Domestic Violence

By a Hmong Domestic Violence Survivor and Advocate

As a domestic violence survivor, I can honestly say that until abuse is understood by both Hmong women and Hmong men, many Hmong women will continue to say that their husbands never abuse them and many Hmong men will continue to say they have never abused their wives. Death due to physical abuse is what most of the Hmong community understands domestic violence to be, but it’s more than that. Hmong women and men need to know that death is the last stage in abuse.

Being a Hmong woman comes with lots of obligations. During a traditional Hmong marriage ceremony, the bride is given advice from clan leader, elders, and at times, the parents of the bride, on how to be a “good wife”:
  • A good wife is to be exactly as her husband, because being the opposite of him will lead to conflicts in the marriage. If your husband wakes up early, so should you. If he wakes up late, so should you. Whatever he does, you are to follow. Do not talk about your marriage problems because doing so means you are degrading your own marriage. A good wife listens to her husband and is obedient.
  • When a husband takes a wife, she becomes his responsibility. If she walks uphill, you are to follow. If she walks downhill, you are to follow. If you don’t control her and she errors, you cannot blame her. A good husband is patient with his wife.
  • A husband and wife are to be supportive of and good to each other, and love each other so both sides of the families’ relationship remain civil.
Maintaining the name of a good wife in an abusive marriage leads to depression and shattered dreams. If a woman has children with her abuser, it is another reason to endure the abuse. No one wants a broken home for her children. There are some Hmong women that have found the strength to leave, and most of these women are labeled as terrible wives, adulterers, and bad mothers. I have not encountered one woman who walked away from her abusive husband that has not been judged or labeled. Just about every Hmong woman is at fault if she decides to leave.

When educating Hmong community about domestic violence, it is very important to convey all types of abuse. Hmong women and men need to understand that abuse comes in different shapes and forms — not just physical, but also verbal and emotional. Most Hmong women would say, my husband never abused me. He’s just mean to me in the following ways:
  • He degrades me in front of other people and compares me to other women.
  • He forces sex on me. He says he is my husband and that gives him the right any time.
  • He tells me I am not smart enough so my opinion does not matter.
  • I am only allowed to visit my parents 1–2 times per year and talk to my sisters only when he can listen.
  • He checks my cell phone and my monthly billing statements.
  • I am not allowed to drive. He says he will take me wherever I want to go when he has time.
  • He says if I love him, I will let him do whatever makes him happy.
I know this because I lived with an abuser for over ten years and thought that the way a man loves a woman was how I was treated. It’s not until I met my current husband that I learned what love really feels like. Everyone, men and women, deserves to have this feeling; the feeling of being appreciated, respected, and most of all, valued.

Abuse should not be tolerated and people should be educated. Let’s work together to understand the different types of abuse so that we can once and for all, eliminate this issue, because abuse is not just happening in the Hmong community; it’s in every community, everywhere.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

New Year Brings Renewed War on Human Exploitation

By Julie Nauman, VCGCB Executive Officer

This January, I am honored to join Governor Edmund G. Brown Jr, the state of California, and the nation in observing National Human Trafficking Awareness Month. As stated in the Governor’s official proclamation, “we take this time to renew our commitment to ending the scourges of slavery and human trafficking, punishing those who engage in these illegal activities and aiding those who are being victimized.”
We must work together to save lives, provide healing, and administer justice for all victims.

CalVCP stands with the Governor in recognizing human trafficking as one of the greatest crimes against humanity of our time, and we rededicate ourselves to preventing and stopping a modern-day slavery that strips victims of the freedom and basic human rights guaranteed to all people by the U.S. Constitution.

As the world’s third largest criminal industry, human trafficking affects communities small and large, at home and abroad. Each year, millions of men, women, and children are bought and sold for the purposes of labor or commercial sexual exploitation. Defrauded, frightened or forced into compliance by their perpetrators, these victims often suffer in silence. You might find them camouflaged in everyday restaurants and retail establishments; hidden in fields and factories; concealed in motels and massage parlors.

Efforts to address this callous crime are often hindered by the hidden nature of trafficking activities. Thus, we must work together to save lives, provide healing, and administer justice for all victims.

During Human Trafficking Awareness Month, we stand united with trafficking survivors, celebrate our State’s efforts in combatting human exploitation, and commit to the continued fight to eradicate this despicable violation of human rights.

Julie Nauman is the Executive Officer for the Victim Compensation and Government Claims Board (VCGCB). VCGCB provides compensation for victims of violent crime and helps to resolve claims against the State.